Cycling and entrepreneurship

I am a cyclist and an entrepreneur. It was 6 months back, on this very day that I started cycling and its been slightly over 3 years that I ventured into the world of entrepreneurship.

And every time I mount on the saddle and gently push the paddles, somehow I can’t ignore the unmistakable similarity between cycling and entrepreneurship. This thought has occurred to me so many times that I finally decided to sit down and write about it.

Pranav CyclingSo what is the similarity, you may ask? And I’ll say there is not one, but several of them. Lets start by listing them down here:

1 ) Its a state of mind

You can’t teach people to become entrepreneurs. Similarly, you can’t ask people to start cycling. Yes, you may get influenced by others and you may get inspired by hearing stories of others, but both of these activities require you to overcome a lot of inertia before you dive in.

One fine day, you hear an inner voice calling and you leave everything else and get started. And yes, cyclists and entrepreneurs are eternal optimists and you need all the positive energy you can amass just to get started.

2 ) The going is tough, especially when you start

The first few days are really hard. When you move out of the comfort of your AC car and mount on a cycle for the first time, the reality and magnitude of your decision dawns upon you. Its seems like you are a rebel and everyone around has their eyes on you. For the first few kilometers of your ride, you enjoy the breeze and the freedom, but soon you start getting tired and you are wondering if you made the right decision.

With entrepreneurship, its more so because the day you leave your fat pay-check, you know you have to figure out a way to survive.

3 ) Follow the uncharted territory, sometimes the forbidden path

One thing about cycling that you do not get to know until you start, is the joy of discovering new trails and taking roads that others do not ( or can not by virtue of their huge vehicles ) take. This is very akin to a startup where you can quickly go and experiment in areas where big companies would take months to venture. This joy, that you get out of exploring the uncharted territory is the hallmark of entrepreneurship and cycling.

And sometimes, you do get adventurous and try out something crazy that you would dare not think of in a big organization. That ability to take the forbidden path is what forms the basis of innovation.

4 ) The resources are scarce

You can’t carry a ton of stuff on a cycle. Every time I go on a long trip, I have to make a hard call on what is absolutely essential to carry and what is not. And once you get on the road, you are the guy who owns it, the guy who runs it and the guy who fixes the puncture.¬†Similarly, in a startup, you are everything from the owner, the marketing guy and the janitor.

5 ) There climb is steep, with several hurdles on the way

One thing you notice the moment you get on a cycle is that the roads that earlier seemed flat now seem to have a gradient. Infact, you wonder if there is any road in this city that has been built straight. Every time there is a uphill climb, your progress slows down and then, as if magically, you get a stretch that goes downhill and you rejoice.

Similarly, as an entrepreneur, most of the things that you try to do seem very hard. The harder you try, the harder they seem to get over. But sometimes, luck is in your favor and you may land a deal that you weren’t even thinking about.

6 ) Its not about how fast you can go, but how long you can last

This beats my common sense, but until I started riding a cycle, I did not ever think that the primary purpose of gears could be to help you save energy, rather than go fast. When you are out for a long ride, your goal is not to get there fast, but to finish the ride. And if you push too hard in the beginning, you lose your energy and risk cramping up before your ride is finished. So your goal is to save as much energy as you can and last as long as possible.

As a startup, the counterpart of energy is the cash you have in the bank. You need to be very miserly in spending the cash because that is your biggest asset. If you burn your cash too fast, your startup may not live long enough to complete the journey you set it for.

7 ) Discipline is paramount to success

One thing that I hear from good cyclists is the importance of cadence in cycling. For the uninitiated, cadence is the number of cycles your feet make every minute as you cycle and once you have a discipline built around it, your body gets accustomed to riding a long way at that cadence without getting tired. Ideally, you should maintain the same cadence throughout the route, but its often very tempting to let the cycle coast on downhills thereby losing the discipline of the cadence.

Similarly in a startup, you are the boss and you do not have a boss who is sitting on your head and setting goals for you. It is extremely important to have a disciplined way of approaching those goals otherwise procrastination sets in and before you realize, you are way behind where you wanted to be.

8 ) You have to be prepared for the worst

When you get on a cycle for a long ride, you need to prepare for the worst. What if you run out of water? What if there is a puncture? What if you meet with an accident? There are several things that could go wrong and you need adequate preparation to address all of these. However, even with all the preparation, things do go wrong all the time, leaving you stranded on the side of the road with no help in sight. You just have to be prepared to deal with situations like this and drag yourself to a place where you can find some help.

In a startup too, things seldom go as planned. As you get into the business, you learn more about the market and your B-Plan literally changes every 6 months ( if not every quarter ). You just need to keep an open mind, take things as they come, take your best decision with the available information at that point in time and move on.

9 ) You ride with your team

When you think of a long trip, the first thought that comes to mind is the fellows you will be riding with. You do make short rides in the city alone, but it is hard to contemplate a full day ride without other people around you. Going out together as a team not only inspires you to do better, it also provides the necessary support system when something goes wrong.

Similarly in a startup, it is very important to have a good team that is with you in good and bad times. The true test of a team is when the chips are down, everything seems to be going against the startup and the team sticks together and sees it through.

10 ) When you finish your ride, its very satisfying

It doesn’t matter how hard it is, but when you finish a long ride, you have accomplished something and you are a very satisfied person. All the hard work, all the effort that went into it was properly channeled towards achieving a goal and finally you achieved it. You had to go through numerous hurdles, at several points you were tempted to turn back, but your will power made you go on and on to achieve it.

Its a tremendous feeling and its the same feeling you get when you have seen your startup through the hard times and turned it into a revenue generating business. The story doesn’t end there, there are new goals to meet, new mountains to cross, but the feeling of having met a milestone that previously looked momentous is certainly exhilarating and extremely satisfying.

That was my experience, what about yours?

I hope that this post inspires more entrepreneurs to start cycling and more cyclists to become entrepreneurs :). If you have had similar experiences about cycling or entrepreneurship or both, please do share them in the comments for the benefit of everyone.

27 thoughts on “Cycling and entrepreneurship”

  1. One thought that strikes me is that you seem very serious about cycling! One round around the block is what I think of as cycling..
    but the read was very insightful especially point 6

    “Its not about how fast you can go, but how long you can last”

    thats very true about startups!

  2. @Rainu – Yeah, I am talking of 150KM plus rides in a day. A ride around the block is akin to starting a website while you still have a full time job.

  3. Hi Pranav,

    Thanks for such a motivational article.I am a cyclist and an Entrepreneur.I really enjy cycling bcoz dat’s entertainment.

  4. Thanks Anuj – Glad to hear you could relate to it. You are based around Delhi – right? Isn’t it too hot to cycle around there?

  5. Original insight and comparison! I loved the piece. I also say (having been cycing in Bangalore upwards of 20 years now) that cycling is like Rabindranath Tagore’s song…”jodi thomAr dAk shonE kEu nA AshE thobey eklA cholO rE”…if no one heeds your call…go alone!

    I’ve not really been successful in getting my-generation women (or men) friends to cycle..but I keep up with it!

    Thank you for sharing this nice comparison of yours.

  6. Great article.. Going thru the same road as you went thru… hope we too soon reach where we aimed for !!

  7. Excellent article Pranav. Was very impressive and each and every point made a lot of sense. Nice One.

    - Anbusivam

  8. I am an entrepreneur, not a cyclist (yet) – the analogy you have given is amazing..loved your article..

    @venkat2

  9. Very nice article. I am not a cyclist (even though I use cycle over week ends) or an entrepreneur… But still enjoyed.
    Thanks a lot
    Jithu

  10. Yes !The importance of preparation cannot be stressed enough .Point 8 reminded me of a scary experience I had not preparing for a short ride.I hadn’t eaten enough and my clothes weren’t warm . I ended up blacking out on the way back and eventually sat in a pile on the road till I could recover.Bangalore traffic was amused.

  11. Excellent thoughts and analysis Pranav :)

    Starting off and driving through both scenarios – cycling and entrepreneurship are challenging experiences… but definitely going to get the best out of life, if planned well with inspiration and aspirations coming strait from within heart…

    Cheers!… Thanks for spending your valuable time to motivate others and contribute towards cycling….. :)

  12. Great post Pranav !! Never really saw it they way you put it across !!

    I’m an entrepreneur (http://www.royalmysorewalks.com) I do long distance running and I find my own similarities with both !!

    Cycling sure seems to take it to the nxt level.. ur post has sure got me all inspired to get on to the saddle :)

    –V

  13. hello,

    good analogy
    I feel that there are many things like this which can be compared, but what is needed is to realize them, as you did here

  14. Thanks everyone for your comments. Glad to hear you liked reading the article :)

    @Deepa – Well said, the Rabindranath Tagore song you mentioned fits in very well with cycling.

    @Venkat – Hope this inspires you to join our gang of cyclists too :)

    @Noella – Good point, I guess thats one thing every cyclist learns the hard way. When you start, you have a lot of energy and enthusiasm and it is really easy to overlook the realities of ride.

    @Narayan – Nice to hear you could relate to my experiences.

    @Biju – Thanks for your kind words.

    @Wineye – Ah, nice to know you are a runner. Running is more physically enduring than cycling and perhaps doesn’t give mind the luxury to think as you go along. I’m sure when you get on the saddle, you’ll find it a breeze to travel long distances.

    @Chetan – Very true. Infact these thoughts were coming to me for a long time since I started cycling. I kept ignoring them and they kept getting stronger. And finally I couldn’t resist writing about it :)

  15. i had been cycling from school days regularly. i am 46 now. i was always scared of business. may be i do have some a chance if i try my hand in it too. thanks for inspiring me..

  16. gud one dude…
    wil b a source of inspiration for young entrepreneuers like us…
    gr8 :)

  17. Excellent!In some sense you captured the essence of any challenge be it cycling, enterpreneurship or everyday life.

  18. Ahan! I heard of your cycling expeditions through grapevine.
    Inspiring stuff… poor Delhiites don’t have enough to cycle around!
    (another common thing in cycling and entrepreneurship.. making excuses!)

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